Euro 2020: What can employers do to ‘tackle’ issues around productivity?

Employment & Skills | Interview | Sport
Laura Kearsley
Laura Kearsley

After being postponed for a year due to Covid-19, Euro 2020 has finally arrived for football fans across the country who will be looking forward to a highly anticipated month of sport. However, employers need to consider how best to manage their workforce in the coming weeks to ensure productivity isn’t affected – according to an expert employment law solicitor at Nelsons. Laura Kearsley, partner and head of Nelsons’ employment law team spoke to Business Leader.

What should employers be concerned about?

Expectations are high for the England team this year, with many people tipping them to win the tournament – meaning there are lots of people eager to keep an eye on the competition as it progresses.

For employers, there may be concerns regarding their employees’ focus, due to a number of fixtures taking place during working hours, but there are ways businesses can maintain productivity while ensuring everyone can still enjoy the tournament.

A lot of employees are requesting time off to watch Euro 2020, how do I handle this?

The key to this is managing people’s expectations. If your business is unable to accommodate all of these requests, it’s vital staff members’ are made aware that time requested off work is granted on a fair and consistent basis.

Alternatively, you could allow temporary changes to employees’ working hours to allow them to watch matches and then recoup the time at a later date. In some cases, this may be preferable to someone booking off a full or half day of annual leave.

How do I prevent productivity from dropping during matches?

While a high number of employees are still working from home due to Covid-19, you may find that your employees are watching Euro 2020 fixtures when they’re meant to be working, which may reduce productivity.

Prior to these key tournament matches starting, I would advise that you remind your workers of their responsibilities and not watching matches when they’re meant to be at work.

I suspect an employee is ‘pulling a sickie’ – what should I do?

If a member of staff has requested time off and you’ve been unable to grant it, you could experience incidences of people being tempted to call in sick, when they aren’t actually ill, to be able to watch the game. Or, an employee may have ‘overindulged’ while watching a match and decide to call in sick the following day.

During the tournament, you may want to monitor sickness absence more closely and take measures to prevent and deter your team from taking advantage of the system. This may involve reminding them of sickness absence policies, in particular what is considered to be a genuine reason for absence, and notifying them in advance that any unauthorised absences could result in disciplinary action.

What about excessive social media and internet use?

You need to make it clear that excessive use of the internet and social media in order to keep up-to-date with Euro 2020 is not acceptable. I would recommend reinforcing internal policies that may already be in place with regards to personal internet and social media usage.

You may want to actively check and monitor internet and social media activity during the tournament. If so, you should ensure your staff are aware this is a possibility by, for example, including it in the staff handbook.

How do I stop any potential rivalry?

Not all staff members who are football fans may support England, and workplace banter may develop between those supporting opposing nations. For example, other home nations Wales and Scotland have qualified for the tournament, with a match between England and Scotland already in the diary.

It’s essential that this doesn’t cross the line into discrimination, based on nationality, and you should take steps to keep this under review and make it clear that any discriminatory behaviour will result in disciplinary action.

Also, while football is perceived as being the country’s most popular sport, it’s unlikely to be of interest to all employees. Therefore, it’s important that those who have no interest in Euro 2020 don’t feel excluded.

With Covid-19 restrictions easing, I’m concerned about the behaviour of staff outside the workplace, for example pubs and fan parks, what can I do?

Again, it’s advisable to remind employees of their responsibilities outside of work while watching Euro 2020. Anti-social behaviour from staff during the tournament could potentially damage the company’s reputation and have a negative impact on its business.

As an employer, you are able to take disciplinary action against employees for misconduct outside of work, and this is potentially a fair reason for dismissal.

How can my business embrace Euro 2020, are there any benefits?

This tournament can offer the opportunity for your employees to engage and bond with one another, and you may want to take advantage of this by allowing them to keep up-to-date with what’s happening. For example, Covid-19 restrictions permitting, you could screen some matches in the break room, arrange themed events or run a sweepstake.

Employers who successfully use Euro 2020 as an employee engagement tool are more likely to benefit from a positive impact on morale. It can be the perfect opportunity to make staff feel included and, if utilised correctly, can discourage employees from any unauthorised absences or excessive internet and social media use.

However, it is worth checking that your policies and procedures cover any potential challenges and that your employees’ attention has been drawn to the relevant sections.

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